FROM THE BEGINNING, 2014 seemed intent on proving to us that humanity’s biggest challenges transcend national borders. Ebola wasn’t interested in respecting borders, and spread to several other countries around the world. Political problems in Ukraine managed to result in the deaths of 298 mostly Dutch passengers on a Malaysian plane. Several of the dead were prominent AIDS researchers, a loss that could have an effect on all of the millions of people worldwide with the disease. And the year’s biggest scientific achievement, the landing of a spacecraft on a comet, was accomplished by the European Space Agency, which has 20 member countries.
2014 was right: the world needs less partisan and national division and more global citizenship. So for those of us who consider ourselves to be “global citizens,” here are some things we can do to make our world a better place this year.
1. Get serious about climate change.
Climate change isn’t going away. Its existence isn’t even a debate anymore. 2014 saw predictions that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was in the process of collapsing — something that could raise ocean levels by several feet over the long term. 2014 also saw the world’s first climate refugees. This is obviously an issue that could drastically change and destabilize our planet, so it’s on top of the list of things good global citizens need to help with.
But where to start? The Environmental Protection Agency offers a list of things you can do in your daily life to limit the greenhouse emissions directly caused by your actions. It’s simple stuff like recycling, using energy efficient lights, planting trees, and insulating your home. But the problem has to be fought at the international level, too. So try donating to carbon offset programs or nonprofits that fight climate change, and contact your US representative and let them know that you’re a voter who cares about climate issues.
2. Donate your time and money to worthy causes.
You could probably afford to take $25 a month that you would otherwise spend on beer or pizza and donate it to a cause that could desperately use it. If you’re interested in donating to nonprofits that will spend your money effectively, check out efficient giving sites like The Life You Can Save.
You can also volunteer. It might be harder to volunteer for causes that focus on global causes in your town or city, but don’t let that stop you: by making your small community a better place, you’re making the world a better place. The best spot to find good local and international volunteer gigs remains Idealist.org.
3. Share your stories, and listen to other people’s stories.
One of the things we believe in here at Matador is that the best person to tell your story is you. The world needs more voices — especially marginalized or minority voices — to speak out about their experiences and their culture. The more perspectives we’re exposed to, the more open minded we become.
I don’t want to make Twitter and Facebook sound more important than they are (your cat picture is cute, but it’s not really making the world that much better of a place), but in 2014, trends like #YesAllWomen and #BlackLivesMatter helped expose male or white Americans to the experiences that they may not have had in their lives. Any time people start to stop and listen to the stories of others, things get better.
4. Support an open and free internet.
We live in an awesome age. We get to hear what’s happening around the world as it’s happening, and we are no longer limited in our choices of news sources. And we get to make friends with people no matter where they are. This new interconnectedness is one huge reason that we can feel hopeful about the future of humanity.
The reason all of this is possible is because we have a free and open internet. It’s a thing worth supporting, so check out Google’s Take Action page for free web issues and give to organizations that fight for net neutrality.
5. Get on the legalization train.
In the past couple of years, Washington, Colorado, and Washington, DC have decriminalized pot. This has reduced crime, increased tax revenues, and made it harder for minors to get pot; one presumes that it will also result eventually in fewer people being jailed for nonviolent drug offenses.
The War on Drugs is a global catastrophe, and it’s distracting us from our much bigger problems. The US drug war fuels the even more violent drug wars in Mexico, Colombia, and Afghanistan, so ending it here would help end it in those places, too. Even if you’re not a pot smoker, supporting legalization helps make the world a better place. DrugPolicy.org has a great toolkit for activists, as well as resources for other things you can do to help end the War on Drugs, so check them out. You can also donate to the Marijuana Policy Project if you want to help change legislation at the national level.
This article was originally published on the Matador Network.